William Cole Bouton, Sr. departed this life on January 16, 2021 following an illness. He was 91 and lived in Savannah.
Virtually all who encountered Bill Bouton were struck by his warmth, enthusiasm, and optimism. A lifelong athlete, he exuded good health and a commanding physical presence. With a hearty laugh, open countenance, and joy in the presence of others, he could light up a room. At the same time, he was sensitive and capable of patient listening and good counsel.
Born in 1929 in Mount Vernon, N.Y., Bill was the son of Dr. Clyde Sanford Bouton and Laura Cole Bouton. He attended Bronxville public schools before enrolling at The Hill School in 1945 as a Fourth Former. Often referring to Hill as representing some of the best years of his life, Bill was overjoyed to return for reunions when possible. Captain of the track team in his senior year, Bill was recognized by his teammates as a leader after winning the mile event at Lawrenceville in the spring of 1947. Following graduation from Hill, Bill attended the University of Virginia.
Drafted into the U.S. Army in 1951, Bill saw action in the Korean War, mustering out to the Reserves in 1952 with an Honorable Discharge as a Sergeant First Class. He could regale listeners with his capers during transport. He claimed never to have fired his rifle in anger, fitting for one as amicable as Bill.
Bill claimed to be one of the luckiest men alive, citing marrying Sue, the love of his life. Complementing each other, they enjoyed 66 years of happiness together, prizing being constantly by one another’s side in retirement. After marrying Sue in 1954, his good fortune was most assured when he joined the Standard Coosa Thatcher textile company following a stint at J.P. Stevens. During a career at SCT that spanned nearly 40 years, Bill rose to the position of Vice-President of Distributor Sales. A key employee, he was tapped to participate in a leveraged buyout of the corporation in 1981, a development that eventually secured his retirement and move to Savannah. Running a sales office in Connecticut, he called on textile manufacturers throughout New England.
Settling in Darien, Connecticut in 1955, Bill’s interpersonal skills were quickly recognized by those who sought to activate his volunteer spirit. Bill served in town government as an elected member of the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) during the 1970s and as a longtime Parks and Recreation Commissioner, where he was instrumental in bringing paddle tennis to Darien. A regular Saturday morning tennis player in Noroton Manor, Bill also could be found crewing on the Bull & Bear, an Ensign sailboat co-owned with another Noroton Yacht Club member family. Likely some of the best times with his sons, Bill, Jr. and John, were found aboard a couple of Mako powerboats, fishing and clamming on Long Island Sound. Pre-retirement and retirement years found him frequently on the golf course, first at Silvermine Golf Club in Norwalk and then The Landings Club in Savannah, In addition to tennis, golf, and boating, skiing was Bill’s passion for decades, with an annual trip out West a highlight of his ski seasons into his seventies.
Retirement brought Bill and Sue to The Landings at Skidaway Island, a community that brought him tranquility for a quarter-century. Helping to organize the Southpoint neighborhood’s annual holiday party, Bill could be found stringing Christmas lights and throwing tinsel with the best of them. When his young grandchildren visited, Poppy was sure to have secured rights to feed the ducks on the lagoon that bordered their comfortable home. He taught each of his grandchildren, as he had taught his own children, to bodysurf and to drive. Enjoying play with his regular Friday golf group, Bill found his quality of play improving, retiring from the game with the lowest handicap of his life. Neither his sons nor his son-in-law, Curt, ever bested Bill on the golf course, though it was clear that his grandsons Will and Ryan were likely soon to overtake him. Even after Sue and Bill moved to independent living at The Marshes in 2015, Bill chugged along on his gimpy golf cart to far-off courses at The Landings.
The phrase “larger than life” has become a cliché, but Bill Bouton’s spirit was huge. Moved by Sue’s faith to convert to Catholicism in 1978, Bill became a regular participant in church services, going so far as to attend Mass daily during Lent for a number of years. He served as a Lector and Lay Eucharistic Minister for decades at St. John’s Church in Darien and participated in community service there. Upon the move to Savannah, he was a faithful Sunday communicant at St. James the Less, traveling weekly to the Diocese of Savannah’s Social Apostolate downtown to serve meals to the hungry and those experiencing homelessness. Remarkably hospitable, Bill relished his nightly cocktail hour – his “libations,” as he termed it — as a dedicated way to connect with family, and it is surely in the ritual of those gatherings that a good part of his spirit resides – he loved a party.
Bill is immediately survived by his wife of 66 years, Suzanne; his son and daughter-in law, William Cole Bouton, Jr. and Diane Bouton; his daughter, Susan Elizabeth Bouton Sabate and son-in-law Curt Sabate; and his son, John Sanford Bouton and daughter-in-law Caroline Campbell Bouton. Grandchildren Joanna Sabate Petrazzolo and her husband, Dan Petrazzolo; William Curt Sabate and his wife Alexa Sabate; Ryan Sabate and his wife Kelly Sabate; Melisa Bouton Jackson and her three sons, Alex, Archie, and Emilio; Emma Bailey Bouton; and Caroline Sanford Bouton survive him. Two great-grandchildren, Keira Petrazzolo and Meila Petrazzolo, will also miss Poppy. He is predeceased by his brother, Clyde Sanford Bouton, Jr. and his sister, Dorothy Bouton Brown.
A celebration of his life will occur later in the year. In lieu of flowers, please direct contributions to the Social Apostolate, PO Box 8703, Savannah, GA 31412.